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COMMENTARY: Student media should help tame the chaos in Dominica

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The DGS Clarion Magazine Editorial Staff in 1978
Standing L- R: Renwick Val St. Hilaire, Norman Francis, Emanuel Finn, Colin Lloyd (deceased) Leslie Shillingford (deceased): Knelling from R-L: Merlin St. Hilaire, Erickson Garraway, Quentin Clarendon, William Cuffy (deceased)

Journalism and news reporting is chaotic and often times not an orderly job.  I learned that fact at the Dominica Grammar School (DGS) during my senior year in 1978 when I was the editor of the school’s magazine, ‘The DGS Clarion.’ My staff and I accepted the fact that we were Media and went about the task of covering our ‘school world’ and the issues that were affecting us in an unbiased manner.  At the Clarion, we ran and supported our operations by selling advertising spaces to Roseau merchants and from magazine sales. Of course there were no smart phones or the internet at this time.

We even gently tip toed into the forbidden, punishing, unforgiving and chaotic world of Dominican politics.  But real and authentic journalism is a tough business which requires hard work and courage.  We understood in a very fundamental way that that is the duty and responsibly of all organized forms of journalism to attempt to bring an understanding to the issues that concern people and our country. The DGS Clarion began the process of our understanding of this seemingly impossible task of responsible journalism in Dominica.

During high school we always looked forward to reading the publications of all the operating high schools on the island. There was the St. Mary’s Academy ‘Marion Messenger’, the Convent High School ‘Touch’, the Portsmouth Secondary School (PSS) ‘Bombo’, the Sixth Form College ‘SifoCol ‘Courier’, the Wesley High School ‘Eek’ and of course, the DGS ‘Clarion’. We learned many important and encouraging lessons from these student publications during those defining years.  Indeed this period was a golden era and renaissance of student enlightenment.

Our high school universe was small and we dealt with the challenge of trying to tame it. We reported on teachers who gave too many demerits and detentions. This was a problem especially for students who traveled daily to school in Roseau from as far away places like Grand Bay and points south and the west coast as far as Colihaut. Often times they arrived to school late and were punished for tardiness.

Being late on Monday mornings was also a problem for students who hailed from the far rural areas who went to their villages (homes) on the weekends. This was a frequent experience for me due to the fact that I either went home to LaPlaine or visited my grandfather and cousins in Jalousie, Castle Bruce on some weekends back east. At early dawn light on Monday mornings the 3- ton passenger trucks departed the villages arriving in Roseau long after the 8:00 a.m. school assembly. The terrible conditions of the pot –hole mountainous roads in the rain forests which lead to the east contributed to the lumbering trucks’ late arrivals in Roseau.

We also reported on teachers who were tough graders, who won the debate competitions, who got promoted in the Cadet Corps and who excelled in the GCE exams. We covered the celebrated, competitive, colorful and popular DGS Sports Day, the junior carnival calypso king and queen competitions. We would conduct investigative reporting on the conditions of the school bathrooms and the DGS sports grounds.

But as enlightened and diligent academically focused students, we viewed ourselves as the future leaders of Dominica and we used our platform (the Clarion) to get slightly involved in the hot button political debates and issues of the day. We quickly found out that reporting on political events in our island home was (and is) and maybe will always be complicated and challenging. That daunting task can be best described as an attempt to package chaos, confusion and nonsense. The real challenge lies in trying to organize people, government and opposing sides, ideas, positions and actions.

The big divisive issue in Dominica from 1976-1978 was Dominica’s political independence from Britain. In August 1976 at the Labour Party 21st annual convention in Salisbury, Premier announced the declaration of political independence. This was also the position of one of his nemesis, the left leaning (Grand Bay based) pro-independence Popular Independence Committee movement headed by comrades Rosie Douglas and Pierre Charles. Mr. Douglas and Mr. Charles went on to become Prime Ministers but met their unfortunate and untimely deaths while in office.

Premier John’s other nemesis, the Opposition Dominica Freedom (DFP) Party which was led by Ms. Eugenia Charles, called for a referendum on political independence for Dominica. The Labour Party’s leader third nemesis  the Trade Union Leader of the Civil Service Association (CSA) Trade Union leader Charles  A .Savarin. Mr. Savarin would go on to be the Leader of the DFP. DFP ‘s position was that whilst Dominica should get its political independence, Premier John and his Labour party were incompetent to guide and rule Dominica as an independent nation. Do you remember the bumper stickers that read: ‘Independence No: Referendum Yes’? Our island home achieved its political independence on November 3rd, 1978.

The significance of political independence to us was self-determination, realization and development for Dominica and our people. Whether we have achieved that noble goal is another question. The Clarion’s editorial in May 1978 was entitled, ‘Today versus Tomorrow: Independence must Come’. A few days after edition was released, the regional and well respected Barbados Advocate carried a story on its front page with headlines: ‘Students support Political Independence Movement in Dominica’. This acknowledgement by a respected publication convinced us that we were contributing in a progressive way to a highly sensitive and politically charged debate in our land.
Of course, the state radio (DBS) announcers who were political appointees and ‘spin-doctors’ for the government got some political mileage at our expense and efforts. We were unable to convey to the radio that we were nonpartisan and were only contributing to the public discourse in the most professional and respectable manner. Has anything change today with that radio station since 1978?

Today our Nature Isle is in a state of utter confusion and pain on a much greater scale than it was from 1976-1979. The recently held general elections where Labour party won added more controversy, questions, chaos and quagmire.  The Opposition United Workers Party has filed a law suit challenging that the December election results were not free, fair and people voted or (not) in fear with heavily armed foreign troops on the ground. That task of packaging that chaos is a long, and uphill climb. Now is an opportune time for future leaders (today’s students) to step and make their invaluable contributions like we did some four (4) decades ago with our student populations.
With the availability of computers and the Internet, there may not be any excuses for all the high schools not having any publications such as a student electronic magazine, online blog, and radio or television programs. Does any high school has a ‘student’ Facebook page, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter account or other social media platforms where students can debate and discuss these big issues facing our nation? It is imperative that our best and brightest young minds write, debate and publish on the various troubling and vexing controversies dealing with their school world and governance issues that are threatening our island home.

When young citizens of a democratic nation communicate (and engage) with one another in a respectable, intellectual and responsible manner, something simple but magical happens. We begin to see each other as human beings and not as mere political objects repeating what politicians and their die-hard supporters and operatives bellow out. They will begin to understand that we are all Dominicans and there is no need to fight each other for political reasons. The most invaluable lesson they will learn is that in Politics there are no permanent friends or allies, just permanent interests. The Trade Unionist who became a journey-man politician, Charles A. Savarin, went on to be the President of Dominica in a Labor Government is a living poignant example of that fact.

Such exercises will leave an indelible mark on our young minds (as it left on me) that political winners and losers are part of the process but the most cherished civic duty should be conducted in a fair and equitable manner following established democratic laws, rules and policies. Give our high schools youth the guidance, space, intellectual and professional journalistic nourishment and support and they will do their best to address our island affairs and its complex, yet solvable issues. In the end, they will be progressive and active participants in the development of our country. This we cannot afford to ignore because our future as a people depends on it.





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Date of World Creole Music Festival 2020 changed to 1 week before Creole Day

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Marva Williams at Press Conference this morning 29th January 2020 

The World Creole Music Festival’s schedule of dates has been changed for the first time in 23 years of the Festival’s history.

Rather than having the Festival fall the weekend before Creole day the “3 nights of pulsating rythmns” will be held one week earlier.

Marva Williams Events Coordinator at the Dominica Festivals Committee speaking at a press conference today, when asked if the change of date will affect the number of visitors who come for the event she indicated that she does not believe that will be the case.

Williams went on to explain, “If you love the World Creole Music Festival then you will come for the World Creole Music Festival.” She further explained in coming to the decision that from an organizational perspective they made various recommendations and questions were asked.

Williams pointed out that the logistics of the event were also examined as well as the whole independence calendar. “I believe the decision was made at a government level and our aim was just to put the information out early enough…”

This was in order to allow those who were just waiting for that information to book their travel arrangements.

In a press release yesterday Tuesday 28th January, the Discover Dominica Authority (DDA) indicated that the festival was held 1 week earlier to accommodate preparations for celebrating the country’s 42nd anniversary of Independence on November 3, 2020. The following excerpt from the release explains how the Festival fits into the schedule of events around the Independence and what to expect culturally from the show:

The WCMF which is part of the wider celebrations for Dominica’s annual independence anniversary, and is preceded by a variety of cultural events, competition and fringe musical events, has become well known for attracting some of the region’s major acts in the creole musical genres like Cadence-lypso and Bouyon from Dominica, Zouk from the French Antilles, Compas from Haiti, as well as other genres with Caribbean and African roots, like Reggae and Dancehall from Jamaica, Soca and Calypso from Trinidad and other Caribbean islands and Afro-beat from the African continent.

Barring extreme conditions such as 2017 when the festival was cancelled due to Hurricane Maria or in 2010 when night two (October 30th) was effectively postponed to the afternoon of the following day due to Tropical Storm Tomas, this is the first significant alteration in time and date of the WCMF.





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International Dominican reggae artist releases single – Feeling the vibes

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Kurt Prince aka King Tappa is an international Dominican Reggae artist operating out of New Jersey.

Prince is a seasoned artist and son of the soil who grew up in the community of Marigot and attended the Wills Strathmore Stevens Primary School up to the age of 10. He later migrated to St. Croix and then on to New Jersey where he planted the seeds of his musical career.

Read Prince’s full bio below.

 

King Tappa is a Dominican born International reggae singer based in New Jersey. He has been in the music industry for over ten years. Starting his music career first as a DJ in his early teens through college and his twenties. Music has always been a big part of his family. King Tappa remembers singing and free styling at the age of 14 and four years later, it comes as no surprise that he decided to take music seriously. Beginning as a DJ he established Power Sound and went by the name DJ Tappa. He got the opportunity to perform at many venues within the tri-state area and even outside the United States. His performances outside of the United States include: St. Croix, Linstead, Jamaica, Bermuda and Dominica to mention a few. The highlight of his DJ career so far has been performing with Stone Love at Da Culture Lounge Fredrickstead, St.Croix U.S.V.I in 2005.   

Inspired by international Reggae artists such as Steel Pulse, Beres Hammond, Culture, Gregory Isaac, Capleton and Morgan Heritage he began writing and moved on to singing. Going now by the name King Tappa he released his premiere album “When I Work” in 2007. King Tappa was able to give an unforgettable performance back in his homeland performing with the likes of Tanya Stevens and Gyptian. His premiere album “When I Work” has given King Tappa to score performances alongside artists like Da’Ville, Elephant Man, Buju Banton, Beenie Man, hip hop artists Rick Ross and Fabolous to name a few.    

King Tappa has written over 100 songs and has done excessive amounts of dub plates and jingles for many different sound systems worldwide. He released his second album last summer (July 2019) titled “Feeling the Vibes”. This album comes a decade after his first release, which is sure to prove he has grown significantly over the years through his music and performances. The album garnered a lot of traction within the USA, Africa and the Caribbean with major reviews from The Jamaica Observer, Star and Gleaner as well was a Tanzanian magazine. He has been performing both locally and internationally in places like Canada, the Caribbean and Nairobi Kenya Africa, which by far is the highlight of his career. The music video for the title track “Feeling the Vibes” was premiered in November on www.reggaeville.com one of the largest online reggae magazines. It was also nominated for album of the year 2019 by Reggaeville. His work is one to look out for since not only does he sing and DJ but he writes all of his music.  

In addition to his musical contributions, King Tappa is also the president of Project Book Bag, an initiative designed to assist students in Dominica by making meaningful contributions of school supplies on a yearly basis.  

For more information on King Tappa visit www.kingtapamusic.com 

Instagram: @kingtappa  





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